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Holiday Macaroons

December 13, 2012

A few weeks back, my husband mentioned to me that he wanted to see if we could make macaroons.  We were away from the computer at the time, and having a discussion about baking because I mentioned that I would need to bake some cookies for an upcoming potluck event I was attending.  When my husband mentioned macaroons I was a bit thrown off because I wasn’t sure what kind of macaroons he was talking about.  The conversation was kind of comical because we both described macaroons to each other in words, but without the aid of a picture you could find by Google-ing it on the Internet, I was still left confused by what kind of macaroons my husband wanted to make.  And he couldn’t understand what I could possibly be confused about.  Fast forward a couple of weeks – while I’m on the computer, I search out a picture of both a coconut macaroon and a French macaroon (more properly called a French macaron, but the translation in English has also become a macaroon, so the two are easily confused) and show both to my husband.  And he looks at me like, “we’re still having this conversation?”  He tells me that he obviously wanted a coconut macaroon, after all he is a coconut lover.  When he looks at the picture of a French macaroon, he asks me, “what is this?  I’ve never seen this before.”  When I explain that it’s a French macaroon, hence my confusion, he’s now the confused one because he’s never heard of a French macaroon before.  Ok, well that solves that.  Coconut macaroon it is.

My husband and I were both curious as to whether or not making a coconut macaroon would be easy or difficult.  To us, they certainly looked like a dessert that would be difficult to make.  How do you make this cookie-like thing filled with shredded coconut and have it come out moist, chewy, and a little crispy without burning the whole thing and still have it taste good?  We were afraid that our quest to make a coconut macaroon might fail.  So, I started looking up a couple of recipes online, and to my surprise, coconut macaroons may look fancy, but they are surprisingly easy to make.  Macaroons are believed to have originated in Italy, and the English word macaroon is believed to be derived from the Italian word ammaccare, which means to beat or to crush.  Originally, macaroons were small sweet cakes consisting largely of ground almonds, similar to an Italian amaretti.  However, the North American version generally calls for coconut instead of ground or crushed nuts and has turned into more of a dense, moist and sweet baked confection.  Many coconut macaroon recipes call for the whipping of egg whites to stiff peaks, much like making a meringue, kind of like what you would do with a French macaraon, and folding it into a sweet coconut mixture.  The sweetness in the macaroons will come from either sugar or sweetened condensed milk.  While whipping egg whites isn’t all the difficult, it does mean setting up an electric mixture, making sure you get the egg whites to the right consistency and carefully folding it into a coconut mixture while being careful not to break the egg whites and thereby deflating your macaroon.  It may not be overly difficult, but is a bit of a delicate process and somewhat clunky.  Not to mention that I didn’t have sweetened condensed milk in the pantry.  But, after some searching, I finally came around to a recipe that called for a bit of an easier technique, though more time-consuming, yet consisting only of ingredients I already had around the house.

What you’ll need for the coconut macaroons are: egg whites at room temperature, granulated sugar, salt, pure vanilla extract, cake flour, and shredded coconut flakes.  6 simple ingredients.  And yes, I actually had a bag of shredded coconut flakes in my pantry – which is why making macaroons was a piece of cake as I already had the ingredients.  To make the macaroons festive, and holiday macaroons rather than boring coconut macaroons, and to celebrate the fact that Christmas is approaching, my husband came up with a little twist that involves the addition of green and red food coloring.

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Start with eggs.  This recipe makes about 2-3 dozen coconut macaroons, depending on the size of the macaroon you make.

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Next, you’ll need one cup of granulated white sugar.

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1/4 teaspoon salt.

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1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

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1/2 cup of cake flour.  Cake flour is 27 times finer than all-purpose flour.  Cake flour is actually made from soft winter wheat and has a low protein content in comparison to all purpose flour.  The low protein causes less glutens to form making for a finer and lighter texture when used in baking.  Cake flour is also generally bleached, creating a very fine texture which generally requires that cake flour be sifted before using in order to prevent clumps.

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The last ingredient in making a coconut macaroon is the star ingredient itself, 3 cups of shredded coconut flakes.  The coconut flakes can be sweetened or unsweetened.  Sweetened contains sugar, so therefore will add to the sugar content in the macaroon sweetening the dessert.

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Start by creating a double boiler set up.  Find a heatproof bowl that you can fit over a saucepan of simmering water.  Use the steam from the simmering water to heat the bottom of the heat proof bowl to provide the very low heat needed to get started on the macaroons.  Take 4 eggs at room temperature and separate the yolks from the whites.  Only the egg whites will be used in this recipe.  The egg whites should go into the heatproof bowl and the bowl should be set over the saucepan.

037Add in the granulated sugar and salt to the egg whites and begin whisking the ingredients together.  The reason you need a double boiler set us is to prevent the egg whites from cooking.  You don’t want an egg white scramble in your macaroon.

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As you begin to whisk the egg whites, sugar and salt, you will get a sticky, lumpy glob.  It won’t look like much, but keep whisking.

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The mixture will begin to turn smooth and creamy as the bowl starts to heat from the simmering water in the saucepan below.  Once the creamy mixture is warm to the touch, remove the heatproof bowl from the heat.

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Once off the heat, add in the vanilla extract and continue to whisk to allow the vanilla extract to incorporate into the creamy mixture.

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Add in the sifted cake flour and ensure that the cake flour is incorporated into your mixture.  Even with the addition of the cake flour, the mixture will still be wet as you have more wet ingredients than dry ingredients.

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Finally, add in the sweetened shredded coconut flakes to the bowl.  Combine the coconut thoroughly and incorporate it completely into the mixture.

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You want to have a very wet coconut glob.  You don’t want to be able to see any cake flour, and you don’t want there to be a liquid pool in the bowl.  You want one giant huge coconut, sticky concoction.  It’s time to chill the coconut mixture in the refrigerator for at least two hours to allow it to set so that you can form it into balls for baking later.  If you tried to bake it now, it would be too wet and would spread out on your baking sheet into a pool of liquid sugar with coconut flakes on it rather than into a nice chewy coconut macaroon.

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After chilling out in the refrigerator and setting, you can take the bowl out and start forming your coconut macaroons.  Now, if I was fancy-schmancy, I’d have a star tipped pastry bag from which I’d squeeze out the perfect macaroon.  But I’m not fancy enough for that.  So, what you can do is just scoop out a tablespoon of the coconut mixture, form a compact ball out of it, and then lay it out on a wax paper-lined baking sheet.

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And I did call these holiday macaroons.  But you’re probably wondering why I am calling them holiday macaroons when there’s nothing holiday about them.  Well, my husband had the idea to make them more festive by topping each of the macaroons with either a couple of drops of green food coloring, or a couple of drops of red food coloring to the macaroons right before they went into the oven to bake.  Most people dip the tips of the baked macaroons in chocolate, we top ours with red and green food coloring instead!

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The baking sheet goes into your pre-heated 325 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  When the tops of the macaroons start to turn golden brown, it’s time to take the baking sheet out of the oven so that it doesn’t over-bake.071

Place the coconut macaroons on a wire rack to cool.  This also allows the macaroons to set.  Once cool, enjoy this gooey, chewy on the inside, and crispy on the outside coconut macaroon.  Or, if you’re like my husband who likes his macaroons cold, stick them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.  These store nicely in an air tight container, though I can’t tell you for how long they will keep since my husband and I gobbled them down within a couple of days!  Easy to make, tasty and super colorful!  Try them at home, festive holiday macaroons, just in time for the end-of-the-year celebrations!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 13, 2012 1:43 pm

    I love macaroons but for some reason haven’t made them in years.

  2. December 27, 2012 10:30 am

    I love coconut macaroons! A few years back my college roomates and I got together to bake Christmas cookies and Mary choose coconut macaroons. They were surprisingly not too hard to make and turned out delicious.

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